Pennsylvania’s Third-Largest School District
Increases Efficiency by 80 Percent
“By being more efficient and saving money, we can focus more resources on our mission to provide the best education possible.” – Ray Kase, Director of IT, Central Bucks School District
Pennsylvania’s Central Bucks School District needed a more flexible software system for managing its operations. For more than 20 years, the organization relied on Pentamation from SunGard. However, this system lacked the built-in capabilities to enable Central Bucks to efficiently adapt and streamline core processes, such as budget administration and purchasing. After evaluating several enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, the organization opted to implement K12 Enterprise with help from Microsoft Gold Certified Partner AVF Consulting. This solution tailors functionality in Microsoft Dynamics NAV to the unique challenges of K-12 school systems. Now, with a flexible, powerful system built on Microsoft SQL Server technology, Central Bucks has strengthened compliance through better reporting and increased the efficiency of key processes by up to 80 percent.
Central Bucks School District is the third-largest school district in Pennsylvania. Spanning a geographic area of 122 square miles, Central Bucks oversees and manages 23 schools covering grades K-12 and has an enrollment of approximately 20,000 students. Its budget for the 2009–2010 school year is U.S.$276 million.
In the increasingly competitive field of public education, school districts must be able to demonstrate operational efficiency and transparency to funding sources while fulfilling their mandate to provide high-quality, individualized instruction to students. To thrive, these organizations must also recruit and retain top-level teachers, providing competitive pay schedules alongside nonmonetary benefits, such as a lighter administrative burden with the promise of less paperwork.
By all measures, Central Bucks has risen to this challenge, consistently ranking in the top 3 percent for statewide student test scores. From 2005 to 2008, Central Bucks has earned a spot within the top five school districts based on Pennsylvania’s annual rating of its more than 500 districts.
To maintain this impressive track record and prepare for growth in enrollment while minimizing operating costs, district leaders saw the need to upgrade the organization’s technology. Says Ray Kase, Director of IT for Central Bucks School District, “We reached a point where our aging technology simply couldn’t meet the demand for greater efficiency. We knew it was time to standardize on software that was more cost effective to support and that offered greater flexibility.”
High Cost to Maintain Aging Technology
For more than two decades, Central Bucks used Pentamation software from SunGard to handle its accounting, finance, and human resources functions. However, this system, which runs on Unix and uses an IBM Informix database, was costly to maintain and difficult to extend. For example, the organization spent more than two months and approximately $20,000 to link Pentamation with its employee time- tracking system from Kronos. Further, Central Bucks occasionally needed to hire consultants to make changes to the Pentamation system. “To handle more complex changes to the database, we’d try to find someone on our staff who had worked extensively with the proprietary Informix technology,” says Kase. “But if we couldn’t fix the problem, we’d have to bring in a consultant at $1,500 a day.”
Need for Easy-to-Use, Flexible Reporting Tools
Central Bucks needed business management software that could support greater adaptability, especially in the area of reporting. For example, after installing Pentamation, the organization spent three months building custom reports to comply with federal and state mandates for tracking teacher certifications. However, the organization needed to modify these reports several times as government guidelines changed in subsequent years. Over time, human resources staff members found it increasingly difficult to locate prebuilt templates and generate the reports they needed to ensure compliance.
“We had manuals that contained all of the codes, and it became such a headache to find the right codes and sort the data to create the report we needed,” says Gil Martini, Director of Human Resources for Central Bucks School District. “We would invariably need to track down the Unix guru in our IT department to help us produce a report that should have taken five minutes.”
Inefficiency of Manual, Paper-Based Processes
The Pentamation system did not integrate with the desktop productivity applications, such as Microsoft Office Excel, that personnel across all departments at Central Bucks use each day. This hampered the efficiency of the organization’s annual budget approval process because staff had to rekey information from Office Excel spreadsheets into the budget module in Pentamation. Tom McCambridge, Director of Finance for Central Bucks School District, says “Because we did a lot of the work manually, it took as many as three people up to a full week to load the budget data into the system.”
To boost efficiency and make it easier for staff and teachers to support the organization’s mission, Central Bucks sought to replace its Pentamation system with a more powerful and flexible enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution.”We recognized that we faced too much of a risk of falling behind and not being able to keep our costs low and our student performance high if we didn’t make the change to a more modern business system,” says Kase.
Leaders at Central Bucks evaluated a number of different ERP systems, including software from Tyler Technologies, before opting to implement K12 Enterprise with help from Microsoft Gold Certified Partner AVF Consulting. K12 Enterprise extends core functionality in Microsoft Dynamics NAV to meet the administrative, finance, and operational needs of public school districts of any size.
In migrating from Pentamation to K12 Enterprise, executives made a deliberate decision to base the district’s operations on Microsoft technology. “This solution is built on standards-based technologies that our people are familiar with, including the Microsoft .NET Framework and Microsoft SQL Server,” says Kase. “We knew that we could support the technologies with our internal IT resources and simplify integration with other applications so that we could keep our costs low.”
Streamlined Budget Development and Purchase Approval Processes
Central Bucks takes advantage of integration between Microsoft Dynamics NAV and Office Excel to simplify and speed its annual budget approval process. Administrators prepare budgets for the district’s 23 schools in Office using Excel spreadsheets and then automatically import the data, rather than manually rekeying the information line by line as they did previously.
The organization has also streamlined its purchase order approval process by effectively eliminating the use of paper- based requisitions. Before, purchasing managers waited for requests to come by hand-delivered mail. Now, because all requisitions are routed electronically, purchasing managers can view, adjust, and approve requests in a matter of minutes. Teachers and staff can quickly check the status of the requisitions that they have submitted to better schedule projects and in-classroom assignments.
“Central Bucks is a prime example of the efficiency that can be achieved when people are empowered with strong technology,” says Andrew Fass, founder of K12 Enterprise.
Straightforward, Customizable Reporting Tools
K12 Enterprise provides built-in interfaces to government databases to simplify reporting on items such as teacher pension and retirement benefits. Taking advantage of the extensibility of Microsoft Dynamics NAV, AVF Consulting helped Central Bucks tailor eight different reporting templates to meet Pennsylvania’s unique requirements. Central Bucks also uses the built-in capabilities that Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services offers to connect to internal and state-maintained systems to create additional reports as needed. And, staff members across all departments capitalize on the seamless integration between the database in K12 Enterprise and Office Excel to easily manipulate data for rapid, informal analysis. “Now, in a few clicks, we can filter the data any way we want and find the information we need,” says Martini.
Integration with Time-Tracking System
AVF Consulting also helped Central Bucks link the Kronos software it uses to track employee hours with the K12 Enterprise system. In less than two hours, Central Bucks completed the integration and began transferring data between these two applications, without needing to develop or purchase custom-built software.
“It’s amazing how smoothly the information moves between the two systems,” says Kase. “Before, with Pentamation, we constantly had to monitor the transfer to make sure all of the data was ported over and then reformat everything. Now, it’s completely seamless and automatic.”
Central Bucks uses K12 Enterprise to process payroll for 3,200 employees. With built-in support to handle the unique requirements of a school district, such as contract payout processing, and automatic calculation of years of service, K12 Enterprise helps Central Bucks meet payroll schedules with greater efficiency while reducing opportunities for errors.
Central Bucks is in the process of completing the link between K12 Enterprise and its installation of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server. This will enable teachers and staff to log on to a personalized account to view paid-time-off accrual, retirement and benefits information, and other employment details. Employees can also use the Web portal to complete and process standard forms—everything from student attendance logs to vacation requests—which were previously handled on paper.
With K12 Enterprise, Central Bucks can focus on maintaining its outstanding performance and strengthening its competitiveness for the future. Central Bucks has taken advantage of K12 Enterprise, which tailors functionality in Microsoft Dynamics NAV to the requirements of public school districts, to lower its IT costs and increase efficiency by up to 80 percent. “Our key benchmarks are high test scores and low per pupil costs. With Microsoft Dynamics NAV, we have increased the efficiency of our business office operations and cut our software maintenance and development costs to continuously achieve high performance in these areas,” says David Matyas, Business Administrator for Central Bucks.
Lower Total Cost of Ownership
By implementing K12 Enterprise, Central Bucks has greatly reduced its reliance on outside IT consultants. “Because the solution is based on familiar Microsoft technologies, I’m confident that we can use the skills we have in-house to handle 98 percent of the requests for new functionality or troubleshoot any user concerns,” says Kase. “And, in the event that we need to bring in a consultant to help us with something in the future, we know it will be much more cost effective to do so.”
The Central Bucks IT team can now complete changes to database and interface components much more quickly now than before. “Previously, it could take up to six months to add a few new fields to a report or form,” says Kase. “With K12 Enterprise built on Microsoft Dynamics NAV, we’ve already completed comparable change requests on our own in three hours or less.”
Reduced Purchase Order Approval Time by 80 Percent
With K12 Enterprise, Central Bucks has completely automated its purchasing process and is now able to complete requests for approval five times faster than before. Because the entire process is handled electronically, managers can review requisitions more quickly and can make necessary changes to budget codes and cost centers and instantly notify colleagues of these changes without rerouting stacks of paperwork.
“For purchases of capital equipment, a requisition might need sign-off by four or more people, which previously could take up to five days to work its way through the mail and on to the right people’s desks,” says McCambridge. “Now, we can handle that same request in less than a day.”
Improved Adaptability and Transparency
Central Bucks is now better equipped to adapt to changing reporting requirements to comply with continuously evolving mandates for teacher certification and student performance. The organization will continue to take advantage of stronger reporting and analytics capabilities and the power of a fully auditable system to drive more efficient processes while improving the transparency of its operations. Leaders at Central Bucks look forward to bolstering teacher and staff retention by enabling employees to focus less time on administrative tasks and more time motivating and empowering students to succeed. Says Kase, “By being more efficient and saving money, we can focus more resources on our mission to provide the best education possible.”